This weekend Charleston saw more than 330 churches overcome racial, denominational and social barriers to host the Lowcountry Franklin Graham Festival – the largest evangelistic event in the city’s history.
Audiences totaling 34,197 gathered at the North Charleston Coliseum for the three-day event (Sept. 19-21), marking the first time either Franklin Graham or his father have held an evangelistic event in the city through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“In this election season it’s popular right now to talk about religion,” said Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. “But religion can’t save you. It’s only through a relationship with Jesus Christ that we can spend eternity with God.”
Each evening, Graham presented the relevant Gospel message and challenged audiences to accept God’s unconditional love, grace and forgiveness. 1,296 people responded to Graham’s invitation to commit their lives to Jesus Christ.
The Festival also included an eclectic range of music by award-winning artists Israel and New Breed, TobyMac, Newsboys, Group 1 Crew, Casting Crowns and Kirk Franklin. Other highlights included a special message from Mel Graham, Billy Graham’s nephew, as well as musical performances by the California-based Tommy Coomes Band, the world’s fastest flat-picker Dennis Agajanian, Irish composers Keith & Kristyn Getty, long-time Billy Graham friends and associates Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea, and a 600-voice local choir.
In addition to the nightly events, 5,678 people came to the Saturday morning event “KidzFest” featuring God Rocks and Dennis Lee & Friends. Following the presentation, 256 children responded to the invitation to commit their lives to Jesus.
Graham also spoke to hundreds of students at Charleston Southern University challenging them to make their life count and seize every moment they have on earth.
While Graham and members of his team were in Charleston, staff and volunteers with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and Samaritan’s Purse were working in three locations in Texas following Hurricane Ike to aid some 1,000 families through emergency repairs to homes, removal of debris and spiritual encouragement.
Also, volunteers in the Charleston area are gearing up for Operation Christmas Child, the annual project of Samaritan’s Purse that will hand-deliver 8 million shoe box gifts to hurting children in 100 countries this year. South Carolina will soon contribute 165,000 shoe box gifts to the effort that is the world’s largest Christmas project.
Charleston was Graham’s fifth Festival this year. Including events in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Knoxville, Tenn.; Villahermosa, Mexico; and Timisoara, Romania, 233,521 people have attended his Festivals this year. Graham’s final Festival for 2008 will be Oct. 30 – Nov. 2 in Taipei, Taiwan.